This was our fourth phone call after the lockdown and it finally felt good to sense the calmness in her voice. Sushma, a peer educator at YES leading a program on SRHR in her community is also a good friend of mine. She lives with her family of nine members in Suggamau community and is very cheerful; one of the qualities that caught me up was her curiosity, she asked a lot many questions and they were all diverse. Her father is a daily wage worker, living her for 4 years are “migrants from Chattisgarh”.
I remember when she called me amid lockdown around 22th April and asked out of her innocence “When will the corona go ma’am, my father is planning to go back to Chattishgarh right away. There is no income & food now, & seeing the news of migrants walking for 500 km or so haunts me.” One thing that I could in that position was to immediately deliver enough rations for a month, at her house. And it worked, they stayed here in fact somehow we also managed to provide ration to others in her community. But realistically, that is not enough; sometimes it is not about getting something but earning it. With no prosper, what affects the most is the dignity of human life often causing depression and anxiety.
It was the 19th day since I met her, I receive her call “I am going home ma’am, I don’t know when I will be back, thank you for helping me with ration. It was with that, we got more time to plan our travel back, we had to go anyway. But, I will miss you”
I could hear noises of men & honking of bus but there was a long persistent silence between us. Working on field there are moments, connections and relations that only a field worker can understand. I could not say much, it was a mixed feeling; they had decided it and were half way from the town. I felt helpless and thought if it was my fault to not being able to stop them.
“Do you know ma’am, out of every asset we have, we chose to take the Television and stitching machine with us. Chattisgarh is 945 km from here and the roads are so snake types & there are also mountains, sometime it feels like I will puke. But other times the view is so beautiful that I take out my phone and click pictures, but seems like the camera is slower that my vision. Have you ever been to Chattisgarh”
I laughed; she is someone who knows how to find happiness even in difficult times. And so I immediately drank some water and continued to talk to her. I knew she won’t stop until she had told me every single detail.
“Ma’am whenever our bus passed a food corner near highway, I felt bad as I could not eat anything. The driver uncle said that you cannot give money to anyone. Since nobody questioned and you know me, so tell me what I must have asked”
“Why” I said, yes I knew her habit.
I was correct; she did ask the same question, the level of precautions they all were taking is also commendable. Sometimes I feel like if we were so aware and took proper precautions, would this be the situation.
“See the corona bus going” was one thing that really hit me, despite the reminders of being empathetic towards everyone, whenever the buss passed by group of people, they shouted out this sentence. And the phone got disconnected with loss in network. Keen to see the mountains she was talking about I searched on Google and yes they were indeed beautiful.
And the next call was full of confused emotions and glimpse of adolescence, questions about the city she left and the list was long. This entire situation had made her more sensitive, she discussed with me about her father’s job, quarantine centres, situation of people, my work and if I was talking enough precautions or not.
She also sent me pictures from the centre and pointed out where she plays during day time and how she has become friends with the cook and has a silent access to food whenever she wishes. Of course, she is just an adolescent, whose life has just turned around like any other, her studies, friends, her dreams everything has left behind. When I asked how will she cope with the studies to which she innocently replied “I might drop this year, with all the money we have spent in coming here, lets also see when we are back, but till then can you visit me here, I really miss you and long to see you.” I was so astounded to see her quick change in topics each time. I guess that is how life is, as they say unpredictable we genuinely have to find our ways of happiness.
This time, she specially called me up to tell about the thunderstorm &rain last night and how the long lived tress got uprooted from the ground. Very similar to what Corona has done to our city makers, took away the ground from their feet. But anyway Sushma has promised to come back “Ma’am, when this corona will end and we come back to our house, I will cook special Chattisgarh curry for you, please visit us again”.